1996 Daytona 500
|Race 1 of 31 in the 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season|
Track map of Daytona International Speedway
|Date||February 18, 1996|
|Location||Daytona International Speedway
Daytona Beach, Florida, U.S.
|Course||Permanent racing facility
2.5 mi (4.02336 km)
|Distance||200 laps, 500 mi (804.672 km)|
|Weather||Temperatures reaching up to 63 °F (17 °C); wind speeds approaching 13 miles per hour (21 km/h)|
|Average speed||154.308 miles per hour (248.335 km/h)|
|Driver||Richard Childress Racing|
|Qualifying race winners|
|Duel 1 Winner||Dale Earnhardt||Richard Childress Racing|
|Duel 2 Winner||Ernie Irvan||Robert Yates Racing|
|Most laps led|
|Driver||Terry Labonte||Hendrick Motorsports|
|No. 88||Dale Jarrett||Robert Yates Racing|
|Television in the United States|
|Announcers||Ken Squier, Buddy Baker, and Ned Jarrett|
(13.9 million viewers)
The 1996 Daytona 500, the 38th running of the event, was run on February 18, 1996 at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida as the first race of the 1996 NASCAR Winston Cup season. Dale Jarrett won this race for the second time after winning it in 1993 and for the first (and only) time in all of Daytona 500 history, Dale Earnhardt won the pole position, allowing many to believe that he would finally win the race. Ernie Irvan returned to race full-time alongside Earnhardt (both drivers won their respective Gatorade Twin 125-mile qualifying races).
Reigning Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon was eliminated on lap 8 after getting a light tap from Jeremy Mayfield. Busch Series Goody's 300 winner Steve Grissom, along with Rick Mast, Joe Nemechek (both Busch Series champions), & Rusty Wallace were involved in a chain reaction incident after Gordon hit the wall. Mast's and Wallace's cars both were relatively undamaged, but Grissom and Nemechek lost several laps after repairs. On lap 29, Earnhardt's ignition failed, triggering a wreck for Ernie Irvan. Wally Dallenbach, Jr., who couldn't see Earnhardt, tagged Irvan and sent him into the wall.
Due to a new rules package, the lead changed hands early and often. On lap 50, no one but Dale Earnhardt or Terry Labonte (the new leader), had spent more than 4 consecutive laps in the lead. Lap 54 saw 1990 race winner Derrike Cope hit the turn 4 wall, which ended his day.
On lap 77, 1994 and 1995 race winner Sterling Marlin took the lead away from Terry Labonte and led three laps before having engine problems. Not much later, Labonte began to drop back with overheating issues after leading the most laps at 44. He managed a decent finish, but Marlin almost instantly retired from the lead. IndyCar veteran John Andretti, whose uncle Mario won the 1967 race, became the new leader. He and Earnhardt, along with Bill Elliott, Dale Jarrett (the eventual race winner), Ken Schrader, and Michael Waltrip, were all prime contenders at halfway. On lap 131, after 72 laps of green flag racing, Andretti had a hard crash in turn 2. Waltrip clipped him as he tried to go past his spinning car, only to damage the right-front fender. The damage seemed to improve the car's aerodynamic qualities. Shortly after the restart, Mike Wallace suddenly snapped loose and collected Loy Allen, Jr., Brett Bodine and Bobby Labonte, whose car was relatively undamaged. Only Wallace; Allen, Jr.; and Bodine were all done for the day.
Run to the finish
Geoff Bodine and Lake Speed crashed at lap 159, collecting Bobby Hamilton, Chad Little, Robert Pressley, Jeff Purvis, and Morgan Shepherd. This prompted the final pit stops. Dale Jarrett and his crew chief Todd Parrott decided on a four-tire change, while the RCR duo Earnhardt and Petree opted for two. Bud Moore, whose car and driver Wally Dallenbach, Jr. were not yet sponsored for the season, were going to gamble that their full tank of fuel from the previous caution would be enough to finish. Even so, Dallenbach kept the #15 in the lead pack in the waning laps. Earnhardt quickly dispatched new leader and last year's Rookie of the Year Ricky Craven. He lost the lead briefly to Schrader but at lap 177, Jarrett passed him with four fresh tires. Earnhardt could keep up with Jarrett, but he could not repass him. This would allow Jarrett to win his second Daytona 500 win, followed by Earnhardt, Schrader, Mark Martin, and Jeff Burton.
1995 NAPA 500
|NASCAR Winston Cup Series Season
1996 Goodwrench Service 400